People with desk job spend half of their waking life tied to a desk. Yet most are NOT deliberate about their office setup. Today I’m going to talk about one of my favourite topics; how to setup your home office (or office office) so it’s better for your body and productivity. I will cover standing desks, monitors, mounts, docking station, chairs etc. The information is applicable universally but for folks in India, I’ll share my favourite brands/models/vendors and prices as well.
Height Adjustable Desks
Even with world’s best chair and perfect posture, sitting for 8 hours a day is harmful for your back. Our body has just not evolved for that (yet!). Just think about millions of years of evolution optimized for movement and barely 50 years of white collar desk jobs forcing our bodies “suddenly” into sedentary lifestyle. It just doesn’t add up.
Standing desk is a partial answer to our back woes. Electric height adjustable desks are convenient enough that you can take them up and down couple of times a days. If you manage to stand 50% of the time you work, it’ll do wonders for your back. It’s not easy to stand for such long hours in the beginning but you can start with couple of hours everyday and increase the duration from there.
- It’s good for your body to alternate between sitting and standing every couple of hours, easier on back and legs both.
- It’s much easier to stand longer barefoot on an anti fatigue mat. If you don’t want that, just use shoes with good cushion.
A good electric desk should cost you about Rs. 40,000 (~$600) in India. See if you can get LINAK desk frame. I’ve used three different standing desks so far and LINAK is by far the best, well built, and comes with a 5 year warranty. I’ve got mine from Purple Ark here in Delhi (they ship pan India I think). If you are in Mumbai, checkout EDeskIndia.
With LED displays easily increasing your screen real estate multifold at such a low price, there’s no reason you should be stuck to 13″/15″ Mac display all day. The only real question is whether you should get two small monitors or one large one? This is a personal preference and depends on the kind of work you do. For software developers, I’d definitely recommend two smaller displays (21″) as it works really well for our work.
- Display price climbs up quickly as you go higher up the resolution. For most office work, 1080p resolution (Full HD) is more than enough. Graphic designers and other professionals should probably shell out more for that high-res crisp display.
- Height adjustability on monitor is very useful yet underrated feature (very very few monitors on the market offer this). You definitely need either height adjustable monitors OR a monitor mount (details below). I personally prefer monitor mounts as they offer more flexibility (height, tilt, orientation) and opens up a lot of choices for which monitor you can buy.
- If you plan to go for monitor mounts (now or later), make sure the monitor you are buying is VESA compatible.
- For dual monitor setup,
- Buy identical ones
- I’d recommend stick to 21″ or 23″. I’ve used two 27″ in the past and the setup becomes little too wide.
- I bought two Dell 21″ monitors (1080p) for Rs. 16000 ($230) total. Lot of options in this price range, get whatever you like. Note that, I had to return these BenQ monitors because their display was too crappy.
A quality chair is super important part of the office setup & is often neglected. Finding the right chair that suits you is also deceptively hard. You need to use it for a couple of days to know how it’s working out for you and you don’t have that luxury BEFORE making the purchase. Frankly, if there’s a store with liberal exchange policy I wouldn’t mind paying little more to find the right chair that suits me. Anyway, I’ll just outline basic evaluation criteria that’s vetted by my wife who is a physiotherapist.
- Mesh chairs are much much better than cushion chairs. They absorb the stress (instead of radiating it back).
- Height adjustability is standard but seat length adjustability is super useful. You can adjust the seat length so that your butt is all the way in the back, the front of the seat just finishes before your knee bends, and feet are easily touching the ground. That’s what they call the perfect posture and it should be easily achievable on your daily chair, heck the chair should force you into that posture to be comfortable.
Sadly, there’s not many options in mesh chairs. In India, Featherlite carries a few. I bought YS0817H for Rs 21k (~$300). You can find it in this catalogue. I have heard a lot of good things about Optima Mesh chairs as well (similar price point as that of YS0817H). Then there is Pinnacle Mesh which is almost double the price of Optima but I didn’t think it offered anything more (ergonomically) than Optima or YS0817H.
Probably the best office chair globally is Herman Miller’s Aeron Task Chair which you can also buy in India for a whopping 1 lac rupees (~$1500). I have used Aeron in the past and can say YS0817H comes pretty close in quality and ergonomics for 1/5th the price. Good job Featherlite!
As I mentioned above you either need height adjustable monitor or the monitor arm. I’d recommend going for monitor arm as it offers more flexibility, more options for monitor and is not that expensive. Sadly again, monitor arm’s are almost non existent in Indian market. The ones you see on Amazon etc. are all imported and are double the actual price (if you compare it to amazon.com). Anyway, China comes to the rescue. There are a lot of options on AliExpress, I bought NB F180 for Rs. 5,500 (~$80). It takes 2-3 weeks for items to arrive from AliExpress and returns are a hassle, so I’d recommend just buying it from a reputed seller on that platform even if it means paying a few $ extra.
With multiple monitors, keyboards, mouse it’s a lot of wires that need to go in and out of laptop every time you hook / unhook. To avoid that, you can get a docking station so all the wires from devices (monitors, keyboards etc.) go into the docking station and a single USB cable comes out that you need to hook into the laptop. I’m using a Dell D3100 which was about $110 at the time.
Anti Fatigue Mat
Have you noticed how barbers or floor workers in industries can stand and work all day. A lot of them use anti fatigue mats to absorb the pressure exerted by the floor onto the legs. If you’re serious about standing at work, definitely get a good anti fatigue mat. I’m using this one.
That’s all the advice I have for now. You might have noticed that I don’t have great recommendations for keyboards and mouse. I’m using Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 and a Dell keyboard (SK-8115) but there are probably better options out there that I just haven’t tried yet.
I’ve seen techies easily spend a few hundred dollars more to get that top of the line processor (while that extra power is hardly ever used), and cheap out on essentials like chair, desk thinking they’re all the same. I’d urge you to think again!